Fishing for and landing big rainbow trout is a goal for a lot of fly anglers across the world and especially here in Alaska. The Naknek River is a great fishery for rainbow trout in the season from beginning to end.
During the month of June, the smolt bust is an exhilarating game where you cast out top-water smolt patterns at rainbows boiling for smolt. The Fall however is the varsity game for big rainbows and it is, most definitely, on another level.
During the colder months, the rainbows in the Naknek River, have grown and continue to feed hard to prepare for the cold and long Alaskan winter. A small rainbow in the fall is 25 inches long, with 26 to 28 inch fish being the norm. 30 plus inch bows are fewer and far between but your chances are still very good. The takes are intense, they fight like heavyweight brawlers, and if you’re not prepared, you’ll get yarded.
If you are prepared and have landed a large rainbow from the Naknek River in the fall, you’re definitely already in the big leagues. If you’ve never fished the Naknek in the fall here are 5 things to consider.
- Traction – When you’re fishing for big rainbows you tend to fish for them like large steelhead. You make a few casts, you take a few steps, make a few casts, and take a few steps. There are certain places on the Naknek River where the boulders and river bottom are slicker than snot. Whether boot studs or aluminum bars you should have them, especially if you’re swinging steelhead style. Slick boulders and rocks in conjunction with the fast-moving water is a good combination for you to take a spill, leading to a cold and wet day.
- Gloves – Not to fish with them on, but when you’re not fishing and running up and down the river in the boat. It’s a simple luxury that can make a big difference.
- Check your running line – Nowadays, many people are running monofilament for running lines. If you are using mono, be mindful of the stretch that can occur. A good way to test the stretch of your mono running line is to hold your reel, add some drag (on a level of 1-9, go at least 6), and have someone else do a quick pull from about 5 feet away. If stretching does occur, you’ll know because you’ll see the line has become disfigured when there is no tension in the line. If your line is still “good” there will be no disfiguration in the mono line. The last thing you need while out on the Naknek is a big rainbow to stretch your running line.
- Heavy Leaders – These rainbows are big. the takes are aggressive, and the fights are long. In order to land a rainbow of a lifetime, you need to make sure your leader is adequate. 15lb Maxima…sure. 20lb Maxima is better. The last thing you need is to lose a fish because it snapped your leader.
- Larger Hooks – Big fish equal big mouths. Big mouths require big hooks. Take the size 8 hook off your articulated fly and put on a size 4. The rainbows will take the fly, but the hook will miss because it wasn’t big enough to catch a lip and you’ll just be left will disappointment.
If you’re fishing for rainbows in the fall on the Naknek River, then you’ve been called up to the Varsity Game, and if you want to catch the rainbow of a lifetime make sure you’re ready for it.
Great to read your comments for swinging to big rainbows. However the practice of beading side drift from a boat has taken over and not for the good health of the rivers most wonderful creatures..the rainbow. I have noticed a large decline in trout mid 20” and smaller lengths. My opinion..beading is taking its toll. I say this from standing/wading the upper Naknek and seeing several fish in the smaller lengths float by. I had not seen this until starting about 4 years ago, each year I spend 10 days in October on the river. I think this bead guide program comes over from the Kvichak where wade fishing is less opportunistic. Deneki is a large outfitter and will play a big roll in the future health of the mighty Naknek. I ask you to consider guiding every (physical to wade) fisherman into walking instead of standing in a boat to be guide walked down a class run. Thanks.